Tuesday, September 6, 2011

About that Libyan War

Imperialism's most dangerous aspect is its seductive nature. This can be just as sexy to self-identified progressives or liberals as it is to unabashed conservatives and reactionaries. The only difference lies in the arguments made. Progressives are likely to be unmoved by open claims of racial, religious or national superiority, greedy interest in someone else's natural resources or simple conquest for the sheer pleasure of violence and dominance. These days, those sorts of honest justifications don't work on many people to the left of Max Boot or Niall Ferguson. 

But there is a different set of casus belli that turns progressives into bloodthirsty killers. Those who would get progressives to support a war or at least mute their opposition to it know exactly which buttons to push. Reasons that turn progressive Poodles into rabid Rottweilers are such claims as "Unfortunately we must intervene in those people's countries and protect them from themselves" or "We're helping set them on the right path for their own good" or "We're protecting women from their sexist patriarchal countrymen" or best of all "We're preventing genocide by invading this country".

Now that Colonel Qaddafi is no longer in control of Libya it might be a good time to take a quick look at some arguments for intervening in Libya that were made by the President, his advisers and supporters. Many of these premises have been shown to be wrong. A few were nonsensical from the start.

Qaddafi will commit genocide
This was particularly laughable as Qaddafi had not committed genocide in any of the cities that he had recaptured. His threats were delivered to those people who were in open revolt. When shooting starts, kind words stop. I can't think of anyone who is going to offer milk and cookies to people trying to overthrow you.

This is not a war so the War Powers Act doesn't apply
I am the law!!
We've discussed this before but Obama's weak and deliberately contemptuous dismissal of the War Powers Act and the constitutional limits of the Presidency is another nail in the coffin of the doctrine of separation of powers. The fact the Congress lacked the guts to defund the war leaves me with nothing but cold contempt for the people that voted to fund this war. Some day the worm will turn and there will be a conservative Republican president that decides on his/her own that it would be great fun to bomb some brown "savages", who lack even rudimentary air defenses and can't defend themselves. When that day comes and it surely will I don't want to hear a mumbling word from any so-called liberals if they supported Obama's illegal war.  Not. One. Word.

Qaddafi's soldiers are taking Viagra to commit rape
It's not clear whether UN Ambassador Susan Rice pulled this yarn from some old lurid Edgar Rice Burroughs' adventure tales or if it was misinformation sourced from some Libyan rebels. In any event it was untrue, which raises the question of why such a highly placed official would repeat it. Obviously that's a rhetorical question. Much like the bs story about Saddam Hussein's troops removing incubators and leaving babies to die or Colin Powell's endorsement of fake intelligence before the Iraq war or Condoleeza Rice's invoking of mushroom clouds to justify the Iraq War, people who want war have no qualms about lying to stir up support for their position. After all if crazed Arabs toked up on Viagra are running around raping women, surely we must do something. Right? Where is El Borak when you need him?

The UN resolution allows regime change
The UN resolution was for a no-fly zone to protect civilians. It had nothing to say about removing Qaddafi via force. That was something which was done by the US and NATO. And this raises another question. Why the hell does NATO still exist? The Warsaw Pact doesn't. NATO looks more and more like just a updated version of neo-colonial policing.

Qaddafi's a dictator who kills his own people
Yes. And? So are half the heads of state in Africa and the Mideast, Central Asia and some places in Eastern Europe. Many of these people are good US friends. In fact the US even outsourced torture to Syria. Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar are all close allies of the US. But if you happen to be a native of any of those countries who seeks political change-say like seeking free elections- well you just might come up missing. You might have the police open fire on you, imprison you for life, rape you, threaten to rape your family, or if you're REALLY lucky just get cracked upside the head/beaten or tortured for a few hours. But while you're watching someone carefully crank a car battery attached to your genitalia at least you will have the satisfaction of knowing that your country's head of state is a close American ally.
Don't worry. I'm on Team USA!
So if a West Bank Palestinian man is protesting occupation and apartheid and is shot by an Israeli soldier who is helping oversee said occupation and apartheid that's ok. But if that man's cousin is shot protesting for democracy in Syria it's a human rights violation.  It's just fine if Hosni Mubarak oversees a reign of repression and brutality because as Vice-President Biden said , "I would not refer to him as a dictator". At this point to make it easier for us all perhaps the Administration could give us a list of people who aren't dictators. Or they could just give up a list of countries that do what the hell they're told to do by the US. I think that might be the same list.

The Republicans don't want to give Obama credit
This is a particularly perniciously putrid pile of partisan poop. Two people who really should know better, Rev. Al Sharpton and Professor Melissa Harris-Perry both fell (leapt?) into this shortly after the announced imminent fall of Tripoli. Whether it was Sharpton braying about those evil Republicans not giving the President credit for his wisdom or Harris-Perry making a disingenuous and completely ahistorical segue between MLK's fight for freedom in the US and the Obama led "fight for freedom" in Libya, some people in this country are so caught up in partisanship that they lose heed of the very ideas that attracted them to one group or another. The ideas no longer matter-just the group and its victories. In this point of view the numbers of Libyans killed by US drones, cruise missiles and bombs are not important. The unconstitutionality of the war is a minor detail. And they are frankly bored with the still rising $896 million cost for the war

No, all that matters to these folks is either finding a way to either bash the President for the war or eagerly defend him. The Libyan war is just like a college football game. Such people seem blissfully unconcerned with the fact that people die in war. Sadly many of these partisan hacks have lost sight of the fact that for the true anti-war activists, it doesn't really matter if it is a Democrat or Republican dropping bombs in Pakistan, firing drone missiles in Yemen or murdering Iranian scientists. Much like LBJ and the media/civil rights establishment's reaction to MLK opposing the war in Vietnam, they appear to be shocked, shocked(!), that some people actually take their moral codes seriously and do not change them based on which team's frontman is currently sitting in the White House. Thus they can only process opposition to war as "trying to bring down the President". 

This isn't about oil
Yeah right. If you actually believe that I have to wonder if you're allowed to feed and clean yourself each morning.  The scramble for access to Libya's oil wealth begins. Some relevant quotes from this article are 
Colonel Qaddafi proved to be a problematic partner for international oil companies, frequently raising fees and taxes and making other demands. A new government with close ties to NATO may be an easier partner for Western nations to deal with. Some experts say that given a free hand, oil companies could find considerably more oil in Libya than they were able to locate under the restrictions placed by the Qaddafi government.
“We don’t have a problem with Western countries like Italians, French and U.K. companies,” Abdeljalil Mayouf, a spokesman for the Libyan rebel oil company Agoco, was quoted by Reuters as saying. “But we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil.”
Russia, China and Brazil did not back strong sanctions on the Qaddafi regime, and they generally supported a negotiated end to the uprising. All three countries have large oil companies that are seeking deals in Africa.

And to buttress this "cut China out of the oil deals" case and show China's perfidy a Canadian newspaper has "found" documents which show that Qaddafi was committing the cardinal sin of trying to protect himself by buying weapons from China. How dastardly!!!
We have a responsibility to protect
Closely related to "stopping genocide" and "he's a bad guy" arguments this argument appeals to the heartstrings of progressives and says fine even if this isn't strictly legal via a UN resolution or the US Constitution we can not sit back and let this violence occur.  It's always 1939 in this worldview. 
Balderdash. If that were really the case then the next time a Palestinian woman like Jawaher Abu Rahma is killed at a protest or an American woman like Emily Henochowicz loses an eye after being shot in the face I will look to the US/UN to protect peaceful protesters in Israel. Ok, ok, maybe that's too much to ask, Israel being a "special case" and all. Hmm. How about just protecting Black people in Libya?

But Gaddafi loyalists were also targets of apparent extrajudicial killings. Those deaths have cast a dark shadow over Libya’s newfound freedom and call into question whether the rebels will break with Gaddafi’s blood-soaked style of governance or merely mimic it.
“In Tripoli, we are seeing the same pattern in recent days that we saw earlier in the east,” said Diana Eltahawy, Libya researcher for Amnesty International. She described a record of abuse, torture and the extrajudicial killing of captured pro-Gaddafi fighters that has followed the rebels from east to west as they have taken over the country.
The worst treatment of Gaddafi loyalists appeared to be reserved for anyone with black skin, whether they hailed from southern Libya or from other African countries. Darker-skinned prisoners were not getting the same level of medical care in a hospital in rebel-held Zawiyah as lighter-skinned Arab Libyans, Eltahawy said.
Rebels say Gaddafi employed gunmen from sub-Saharan Africa to shore up his army against his own people, and those fighters have elicited intense enmity from Libyans. But many of the detainees in Zawiyah told Amnesty International they were merely migrant workers  “taken at gunpoint from their homes, workplaces and the street on account of their skin color,” Eltahawy said
As rebel leaders pleaded with their fighters to avoid taking revenge against “brother Libyans,” many rebels were turning their wrath against migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, imprisoning hundreds for the crime of fighting as “mercenaries” for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi without any evidence except the color of their skin.
Many witnesses have said that when Colonel Qaddafi first lost control of Tripoli in the earliest days of the revolt, experienced units of dark-skinned fighters apparently from other African countries arrived in the city to help subdue it again. Since Western journalists began arriving in the city a few days later, however, they have found no evidence of such foreign mercenaries.
Still, in a country with a long history of racist violence, it has become an article of faith among supporters of the Libyan rebels that African mercenaries pervaded the loyalists’ ranks. And since Colonel Qaddafi’s fall from power, the hunting down of people suspected of being mercenaries has become a major preoccupation.
Human rights advocates say the rebels’ scapegoating of blacks here follows a similar campaign that ultimately included lynchings after rebels took control of the eastern city of Benghazi more than six months ago.
The detentions reflect “a deep-seated racism and anti-African sentiment in Libyan society,” said Peter Bouckaert, a researcher with Human Rights Watch who visited several jails. “It is very clear to us that most of those detained were not soldiers and have never held a gun in their life.”
In a dimly lighted concrete hangar housing about 300 glassy-eyed, dark-skinned captives in one neighborhood, several said they were as young as 16. In a reopened police station nearby, rebels were holding Mohamed Amidu Suleiman, a 62-year-old migrant from Niger, on allegations of witchcraft. To back up the charges, they produced a long loop of beads they said they had found in his possession.
“People are afraid of the dark-skinned people, so they are all suspect,” Mr. Benrasali said, noting that residents had also rounded up dark-skinned migrants in Misurata after the rebels took control. He said he had advised the Tripoli officials to set up a system to release any migrants who could find Libyans to vouch for them.
He was held in a segregated cell with about 20 other prisoners, all African migrants but one. 
Outside a former Qaddafi intelligence building, rebels held two dark-skinned captives at knifepoint, bound together at the feet with arms tied behind their backs, lying in a pile of garbage, covered with flies. Their captors said they had been found in a taxi with ammunition and money. The terrified prisoners, 22-year-olds from Mali, initially said they had no involvement in the Qaddafi militias and then, as a captor held a knife near their heads, they began supplying the story of forced induction into the Qaddafi forces that they appeared to think was wanted.

So no fears, Black people!!! As soon as you can find a white person to vouch that you're a good abd and not a witch you'll be free to go. 2011 Libya, 1937 Mississippi, it's all good right?Ambassador Rice, President Obama you might want to avoid Libya for a while. We certainly don't want any misunderstandings. Cause they might not end as well as did Professor Gates' incident.
Many blog readers know that I am a huge A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) fan. A crystal clear series theme which bears repeating here is that war is an evil thing. It is so evil that it should be avoided whenever possible. Because when war is unleashed no one knows where things will end up. We do know that the people who pay the heaviest price for war are often the people who had nothing to do with starting it. The ONLY justification for war is self-defense. 
Thoughts? Comments? Rebuttals? Had you heard about the plight of Blacks in Libya?
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